Illinois, a safe haven for women who do not have access to abortion

Resistance is organized. Anticipating the impending end of the closure roe deer v. wade, which grants constitutional protection to abortion rights in the United States, various groups are struggling to keep abortion accessible. At the heart of this movement is the state of Illinois, politically and geographically well positioned to play this role.

“We are an oasis in the desert of abortion. “

The one who draws this conclusion is Mary Jane Maharry of Planned Parenthood Illinois.

Yup roe deer v. wade is in fact invalidated by the Supreme Court, “each of the states surrounding Illinois will either ban abortion or severely limit it”, he stressed to the Duty. Half of the states – 26 out of 52 – should move in this direction.

Already patient

Under the weight of mounting restrictions, Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit that runs health centers that offer sex education and various reproductive health services, has turned its eyes to Illinois. “We have been preparing for years for a wave of out-of-state patients. “

In recent years he has built two new health centers: that of Waukegan, on the border with Wisconsin, and that of Flossmoor, very close to Indiana. Not to mention the Fairview Heights clinic, which opened in 2019 near the Mississippi River, which separates Illinois from Missouri.

The downtown Chicago clinic expanded its premises two months ago to prepare for a wave of patients, says Ms.myself Maharry in interview. The organization also focused on expanding its telemedicine service and began delivering the abortion pill by mail to patients in Illinois. All of this frees up clinical space for pregnant women in other states. It is not possible for them to benefit from telemedicine or postal mailings – the law requires a residential address in Illinois.

“Yes, a Mississippi woman will have to drive to Illinois to get a telemedicine appointment there. An 800km, 8-hour journey separates the state capital from the two closest clinics in Illinois in the southwest, Granite City and Fairview Heights.

This is where women will go if Jackson’s abortion clinic, the only one still open in Mississippi, were to close because other options have dried up, he had also indicated to the Duty Michelle Colon, longtime activist for women’s rights.

Noticeable influx

Planned Parenthood knows full well that women from the Midwest and the South will converge in Illinois, a Democratic stronghold in a part of the country painted red. “We are preparing to see two to five times as many patients and expect the number of women who come from out of state specifically for abortion to increase by 20 times,” said Ms.myself Maharry.

Furthermore, the influx has already begun. When Texas banned all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy last September, Illinois saw a “significant” increase in patients from other states, up to 30 percent, she said.

Mississippi woman will have to drive to Illinois for a telemedicine appointment

Then there was this domino effect: the women of Texas were going to Oklahoma, but when that state also tightened the vines, they had to go even further east, and even further north.

In the parking lot of the Blue and Gray Clinic in Fairview Heights on Tuesday there were indeed cars with licenses from Texas and Mississippi.

“2021 was the worst year in history for abortion restrictions and bans,” laments Mmyself Maharry. Planned Parenthood has identified more than 660 across the country. “This means that women have to travel further and further away to get care they don’t have at home. “

Other states are likely to see an increase in women seeking abortions as well, such as California and New York.

In Illinois, a regional logistics center has recently emerged: a partnership between the two clinics in the state’s southwest, namely the Hope Clinic in Granite City and the Hope Clinic in Fairview Heights, which is under the auspices of Planned. Parenthood St. Louis. With a single call, women can find the nearest clinic and get help getting there, as the center can also book hotels, transport, find procedure funding, and even childcare services.

“It removes a lot of stress from patients,” says Maggie Olivia, who works for Pro Choice Missouri.

Welcoming all these women is a “significant challenge”, “but our doors are open,” M points outmyself Maharry.

The opponents react

Those who oppose abortion are also organizing.

The Fairview Heights clinic is surrounded by posters that, in the foreground, show what are supposed to represent aborted fetuses and even babies born healthy. “Choose life”, we read about the latter.

A mobile clinic providing free ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, and tests for sexually transmitted infections is parked in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic’s gate in the adjacent parking lot.

The yellow and green van is owned by the Christian nonprofit Mosaic, which is funded by about 90 churches in the area, said president and CEO Kathy Lesnoff.

Mosaic takes sides against abortion: “We don’t hide it,” she says, adding that her goal is to provide “rigorous information” to women and to present them with options other than termination of pregnancy. Later, he helps needy mothers, for example, by providing them with baby monitors.

On its blog, Mosaic reports the various dangers and risks of “serious in some cases” complications associated with the abortion pill – claims rejected by Planned Parenthood, which describes it as “very safe”. The practices of these “pregnancy centers” have been denounced by multiple organizations, including Planned Parenthood, for lobbying women to dissuade them from obtaining an abortion.

Mosaic is only active in the state of Illinois. It has only two offices, near the region’s two abortion clinics, in Fairview Heights and Granite City. “Since there are large abortion facilities in these two cities,” said Ms.myself Lesnoff.

The Life Coalition has activists trying to catch those who arrive at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairview Heights before they even walk through its black gates.

The organization has rented offices in the building next door. From her windows she keeps an eye on the abortion clinic.

“Our mission is to end abortion … peacefully and in prayer,” reads its website.

This report was funded with support from the Transat International Journalism Fund. The duty .

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